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Frog Diversity in Ecuador

College of Natural Resources undergraduate determines the impact of land use on frog diversity

Many people like to collect things. Vincent Aron Oliveras liked collecting frogs during an internship in Ecuador. He even caught one frog species that was previously unidentified.

“Being able to collect so many frogs was amazing, especially when we ended up catching two new species,” said Oliveras, who came to the University of Idaho from The Bronx, New York, to get his degree in wildlife resources with a minor in entomology and geospatial information systems.

Oliveras applied for an internship to do research in the Zamora-Chinchippe watershed that surrounds Loja, Ecuador, for eight weeks to study the impact land use has on diversity, abundance and physical condition of the amphibians living there. Land use in the area includes forest, pasture and urban settings.

“I saw the opportunity to do research in Ecuador,” the 30-year-old senior said. “I wanted to see where my skills could take me and see how much I could learn.”

Oliveras worked with Diego Armijos Ojeda from the University of Loja in Ecuador and College of Natural Resources Assistant Professor David Roon. Once he arrived in Ecuador, he collected frogs from within the Zamora-Chinchippe watershed.

“We collected frogs by hand, and then we weighed them, measured and identified them,” Oliveras said. “There were 15 species of frogs that were supposed to be within the watershed,” Oliveras said. “We found six or seven species of frogs.”

Oliveras spent the remainder of the research trip in Ecuador analyzing the data collected.

He thought the greatest differences in diversity would be found between forest and urban settings due to a change in environmental factors such as food availability, water pollution and predation on frogs.

Vincent Aron Oliveras stands smiling in front of a large tree surrounded by plants in U of I’s College of Natural Resources building.
Vincent Aron Oliveras smiles while standing in front of a large tree in the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources building.

“We weren’t able to definitively say that a decline in habitat resulted in a decline in health,” Oliveras said. “Ultimately, we found the more disturbance there was or the higher rate of habitat degradation, the fewer species and diversity there was.”

Scientists consider the decline of amphibian populations an early warning sign for problems in the ecosystem that result from decreased water quality.

“Ideally, the research should inform management decisions,” Oliveras said. “This was a solid set of data that indicates ‘Hey, you guys may need to change the way you manage your watershed and some of your policies.’”

He was able to present his research nationally at the Ecological Society of America conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

"I saw the opportunity to do research in Ecuador. I wanted to see where my skills could take me and see how much I could learn." Vincent Aron Oliveras, wildlife resources undergraduate

Oliveras said working across cultures had its challenges but was also rewarding. He has continued his partnership with his international colleagues and will be a co-author on their professional publications.

He plans to attend graduate school after he gets his bachelor’s degree in spring 2019, and, because of his international experience, he’s exploring schools outside the United States.

Vincent Aron Oliveras is an OUR Travel Grant award recipient.

Article by Jaime Ellis, a senior from Boise majoring in journalism with a minor in animal science.

Photos by Nicole Etchemendy, a junior from Teton Valley studying creative writing with minors in philosophy and journalism.

Published in March 2019.

This project was funded under National Science Foundation grant No. 1460079. The total project funding is $245,305 of which 100 percent is the federal share.


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